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Dear Chump Lady, How do I keep them from picking me?

Dear Chump Lady,

I’m in my early 20s, studying for a career, and have never had kids or been married. I am not bad-looking and at a healthy weight. I have had a ton of bad, short-term exclusive relationships that I often had to end myself because they became unbearable.

Since I started dating, I decided I would not tolerate any infidelity, even a one-night-stand, in my future relationships, despite depictions of people forgiving cheaters in the media. I never cheated, even when I was in a relationship that brought me no joy and I just wanted to be alone. That being said, I LOVE your blog and community. You validate my philosophy of 100% honesty and being giving to a partner just because it’s in your nature. You call out cheating for what it is: abusive. Chump Nation is made up of incredibly strong and inspiring people with a great sense of humor.

While I have never really been cheated on, I am very chumpy. Almost all of my exes were abusive (mostly emotional), showing passive-aggression, stonewalling, disrespect, and/or criticism. I have been lied to countless times through omission or outright lies to my face. I would spackle and ignore gut feelings that something was wrong, and blame myself for being “too picky” or “expecting perfection.” Or maybe I would think the guy really cared for me because he was unapologetic about his flaws and skipped all of the romantic stuff I convinced myself I didn’t have to have. But let’s face it: I always wanted a steady stream of sweet, inexpensive gestures and compliments like I would give to them. I still struggle with the idea that a guy would want to be genuinely romantic with me.

I mean, I’m not perfect and I have my quirks, but I never would criticize a person’s positive qualities (like they have). Instead, I would try to bring up concerns about their hurtful behavior and how I felt with tact. I gently said (at the beginning) what I was looking for, what I expected, and telling them to tell me if anything bothered them, and to be themselves. No dice. My boundaries were violated and I was expected to stay because I “owed” them for putting up with me, or they had some issue with me and didn’t speak up, so they would act emotionally distant to get me to break up with them.

I tried so many tactics to get different results. I tried dating at a time when I actually felt confident for a change. I tried lowering my standards, dating guys I wasn’t that attracted to in hopes the attraction would come. That was a big mistake, as it only got worse and I was often treated badly (never again!). I still struggle with that old romantic comedy trope where I as the woman “owe” the guy a date or an attempt at forced attraction if he appears “nice.” I tried dating guys I was physically attracted to, and they treated me badly too, but in an emotionally cold way instead of the oppressively needy way. I spackled over red flags, but these guys were all way nicer to me in the beginning.

I’m taking a break from dating and am in therapy. I have read maybe a dozen books (from this site and others) about abuse and understand it in theory, but keep attracting those types of guys. 

So, my question is, how do I repel these not-so-great guys from asking me out? How do I filter out the fakes and tell who the good guys are? It seems that no matter what I do I can’t attract guys who I am attracted to (not models, just hygienic guys who “click” with me) who don’t give me a bad gut feeling at some point. It almost seems like a respectful, romantic, monogamous relationship that feels “right” is a unicorn for me. I am a warm person and have made close non-romantic friends, so I don’t understand why this is an issue for me.

Sending love and good vibes to Chump Nation,

DatingSucksRightNow

Dear DSRN,

Well, let’s start with the easy question first. “How do I repel these not-so-great guys from asking me out?”

Say “no thanks.” That’s it. Smile politely. Turn your attention back to whatever you were doing.

Now, it’s been a long time since I was in my early 20s, and the dating world has changed considerably since the 1980s. In fact I think it’s been replaced with an ap. Do young people even do courtship any more? I read these alarming articles about the “hook up” culture, how you all just text one another for bootie calls. Are your friends dating? Do you have someone to compare your situation with? Part of me feels like you wrote to Emily Post and would like some help with your anachronisms. “During which dining course should I use my seafood fork?”

WE DON’T USE SEAFOOD FORKS ANYMORE. NO ONE KNOWS WHAT A SEAFOOD FORK IS.

Dating as you may imagine it died around 1963 I think. You know, where nice courteous young men intent on a Future asked out nice courteous young women and Everyone Knew Where This Was Heading… because it was 1963 and as my mother says, you didn’t have a lot of options. “You either got married and had children after high school. Or you got married and had children after college.”

By the late 1980s, when I was in college dating (was it dating?), things were a lot more casual. And you had a lot more options. “I’m going to go to South Africa and spend some time studying the anti-apartheid movement” was, like, an actual option. Boyfriends come and boyfriends go, but they don’t stand in the way of the Options. Of course, then you wind up some years later and realize that you had a lot more boyfriend options in college and grad school, but still — I think the defining thing about my generation is that people had ACTUAL boyfriends and girlfriends. “This is Joe, my boyfriend.” You could really say that in 1988.

Now, from what I’ve observed, and some years in the dating trenches as a single mom later, is that it’s all very fuzzy. “Uh, I’m sleeping with you, but is this exclusive?” We imagine it’s this smorgasbord of unlimited possibility. Our options have options. We have online dating. We have multimedia. We have hook up aps. I want a United Methodist, vegan who makes $100,000+ a year, is athletic and toned, and 7 inches taller than me.

It’s all gotten very out of hand.

I don’t think you’re asking for too much. A decent person, you’re attracted to, who does thoughtful things.

 I always wanted a steady stream of sweet, inexpensive gestures and compliments…

So what you’re asking for, is for someone to be as into YOU as you are into THEM. Because you do those things for them.

I’m going to go with two avenues of advice. First — your problem is situational. You’re in your early 20s and guys are immature because they’re… immature. Second tack — your problem is you. I’ll take you at your word. You’re a jerk magnet.

Let’s start off with your situation. You’re young. While many would argue this is the very best time to date, because you’re surrounded by dateable, available people — this is also your problem — everyone is surrounded by dateable, available people. You add in the instant gratification culture, young horniness, everyone’s immaturity and hey, no surprise you get a bunch of jerky people who don’t feel like they have to be on their best behavior, because NEXT! You’re replaceable.

My advice for you here is don’t settle. And don’t be afraid to “next” someone who is not on their best behavior for you. Don’t spackle and think it doesn’t matter if they insult you, forget you, lie to your face. It matters. And the best way to turn an immature person into an mature person is to levy consequences. (Good practice for the parenting years that come later.) Maybe you won’t have a surplus of suitors, but you won’t be wasting your time either. If you can enforce your boundaries — you’re not a chump.

The good news about being young is you’ve got plenty of time. And really you should be very busy finishing your education and starting your career. Don’t feel so fraught about dating. You’re getting really good at sorting out who is for you, and who is not for you. That requires dumping and being dumped (ouch). It’s a skill set. You’re mastering it. Be kind to yourself, find your sense of humor about it, and don’t take it too seriously right now. Hell, you might want to consider just shelving dating for now. Who needs the crazy? Focus on YOU and your life goals (the one that doesn’t include Get a Boyfriend).

Next tack of advice — the problem is you’re chumpy and you have to swat the disordered off you like flies.

A couple things jumped out at me. First — I gently said (at the beginning) what I was looking for, what I expected, and telling them to tell me if anything bothered them, and to be themselves.

Yeah. Don’t do that. This isn’t summer camp. People don’t show up and expect a list of house rules. “No running at the swimming pool. Only dive from the deep end. Horseplay will result in a time out and loss of privileges. Now everyone have a GREAT SUMMER!”

Even if you’re dating a total cretin, work from the assumption that he’s not a total cretin and you don’t need to spell out what you are Expecting. That tells me you aren’t secure in enforcing your boundaries or letting things progress naturally.

What you’re looking for? A nice person. Okay, if he’s not nice, you dump him. A commitment? If after so many months/years it’s not going in the direction you had hoped, you dump him. Fidelity? If he cheats, you dump him.

See how that works? You don’t CONTROL people. And asking them to behave a certain way implies an insecurity that you don’t think they will actually behave that way. You only control YOU. No point in announcing the rules — you LIVE your rules.

Next red flag.

I always wanted a steady stream of sweet, inexpensive gestures and compliments like I would give to them.

Don’t force things. It’s nice to be nice, but do NOT get into a lopsided situation, where you are doing all these things for someone hoping they will do them for you. It can be codependent. Look what I did! NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Or chumpier still, you do these things with no hope of reciprocity because to do them is to earn your place as their partner. I must be of value. (Because I have no value unless I’m doing things for you.)

You know who loves people like that? Users and abusers. If you’re doing for people before they do for you, or out of proportion of what they do for you — yes, you will attract jerks.

How to avoid this? Relax. Find people you have a mutual connection with, be friends first, and let it evolve organically. And let people do for you. Accept help. Don’t wave good people off when they want to help. Don’t be the person who has to always do for others. Learn to give and TAKE.

How do you identify these good people? Work together on some larger project — a political campaign, a volunteer effort, a class project. What does their character look like? Do they pitch in? Play fair? Share the credit?

Here’s what I’ve learned about attracting a good person — at any age. (I’m 47, it took me a while to figure this out.) Go be awesome and where you feel your best, is where you’ll find your friends. When you’re happy, doing the things you do best, that’s when you’ll attract someone who values you for the very things you value in yourself.

Is it fool-proof? No. You might not stumble into the right party at the right time. But it doesn’t matter because you’re still going to be doing those things that bring out your best self. You’ll be happy.

I met my husband at Jazzfest in New Orleans. I love New Orleans, I love roots music. He loves those things. He was in that place. I love to travel. He loves to travel. We fell in love writing to each other. He’s a verbal gerbil. I’m a verbal gerbil. I love to write. He loves to write. He loves my writing. I love his writing.

Meet people in your happy place. You don’t have a  happy place? Work on that before you work on dating. No book or shrink can tell you what your happy place is. For some people it’s a dog park, or an online community, or it’s church. You’re in your early 20s — there is a huge world of happy places to explore. Find the people who gravitate to the same places you go. Will they have good character? Well, that’s a crapshoot, but it also depends on your happy place. I’d hazard there are more good people in the master gardening workshop than the bar… but that’s probably me imposing my 47 year old dork values on you.

Go be happy. Know your worth. Don’t settle. That’s all I’ve got.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “Go be awesome and where you feel your best, is where you’ll find your friends. When you’re happy, doing the things you do best, that’s when you’ll attract someone who values you for the very things you value in yourself.” THIS IS KEY.

    DSRN- I am in my fifties so I am very far afield from what you are dealing with however be careful to not compartmentalize your life like I did:
    get through schooling, university – check
    get a good job – check

    OK, now I’m ready to look for a husband/partner. How hard can it be? I’m a nice, loving, faithful, person. I don’t expect perfection…. WRONG! Recipe for disaster.

    At least you are out in the field trying and not practicing avoidance like I did in my early years. Now you just have to follow Chump Lady’s mentoring as per above. Good Luck!

    • SeeTheLight,

      Count me in the compartmentalization department too. After my parents split up I had a short relationship that I had no business having (what I really needed was therapy) at 14, went through high school, college, grad school, got a job, and then started dating. I was 25, you can do the math. I dated a few people but really didn’t have much of a clue, so I wasn’t ready for the love bombing I got from my now-XW. I dealt with her issues and behaviors and absorbed a lot of crap (I guess that’s “spackilng”) because I’m a real introvert and I enjoyed the attention (I was just happy to be there) not knowing it was actually unhealthy. Now I’m closing in on 40 and I guess it’s now time to figure out that picker thing. Better late than never?

  • So much good advice from CL, as ever.

    I think you definitely need to focus on yourself for a bit DSRN. Find things that fire up your passion. You are young, hopefully you have plenty of good health & energy and even though you probably won’t believe me, more time than you’ll ever have once you are working full-time and are married with kids. Now is your chance to do things you love to do and that make your heart sing.

    When you have those interests you’ll find yourself with likeminded people. This doesn’t guarantee that the blokes won’t be arseholes but it does help you to weed out those who are only interested in you for sex because you’ll get to know the guys socially first through your shared interest.

    At the first sign of any behaviour that isn’t acceptable to you – back off. Don’t spackle, don’t placate, don’t tolerate – just back off. If they were just being childish or stupid and they really like you, then they’ll up their game & pursue you – if they were trying to manipulate you, they’ll see that you won’t tolerate that & they’ll probably find easier prey.

  • Great advice from CL, as always.

    Also worth bearing in mind that a good way to avoid being picked by creeps is to be the one doing the picking. After all, CL’s mantra “Fix your picker” implies that ***you*** are in control of your dating decisions. What do you want? Pick ***that***.

  • Yes, great advice. Seems like you’re attracting these bozos due to low self esteem. Your therapy should help with that. That being said, it’s tough being in your 20s and dating now because many guys are very unabashed (aka rude) about judging women and are accustomed to easy hookups without much work. Not all guys, mind you, but many of them are used to this lifestyle. It can be hard to find diamonds in the rough.

    So first, listen to CL and know your worth. Being single is waaayyyy better than being in a relationship with a jerk. Your studies suffer. Your life suffers. It’s just not worth it.

    I’d like to know where you are finding these guys. (bars? clubs?) Maybe the location is not setting you up for success, you know what I mean? Sure, there are some great guys in bars, too, but overall they are there for more short-term goals.

    • Bingo, low self-esteem has been an issue for most of my life. I also have depression and OCD but am on a SSRI. I’m meeting these guys at school, work, online, etc. Not bars or clubs. I have very few friends in stable, committed LTRs. The ones who are not don’t try to look for a guy or try and get burned in the hookup scene (or “wing it” with a guy who may just want a hookup but gives off glimmers of hope).

      • Well then, you need to build yourself up fix your self esteem *first*. Number one priority. Because with extremely low self esteem you are effectively “marked” for abusers…it’s an invisible mark….most people can’t ‘see’ it but abusers can spot it a mile away. Fix your self esteem and you’ll no longer have this mark.

  • Sweetie, I think what has been said is good, and I’m also glad to hear you are in therapy to look deeper. I’m afraid I don’t have anything much else to add, other than my best wishes.

    There is one thing–and I’m NOT diagnosing you or anything like that–it’s just that your letter reminds me a lot of a colleague I once worked with with ADHD, who had not gotten that under control, and it messed with her “picker”. If you DO have it, make sure you are going through everything (not just meds) to learn to do your best to cope with it. If you have any underlying issues (abuse, depression, ADHD like I mentioned), anything like that would affect this. This may be an avenue you could explore with your therapist.

  • Excellent advice. I’m far from my 20s, but was a very inexperienced dater. Perhaps if I’d had more experience, I’d not have settled for STBX.

    The one thing that leaps out at me is the advice to not settle for less. “Less” is subjective, of course. But let me share with you one thing that stood out for me in my early dating of STBX.

    STBX has always had issues with how to have an argument. Now, in a normal relationship, people have disagreements. Growing up in my house as a child, my parents insisted that we children settle our arguments among ourselves. Proof of the argument being settled was a public apology (“I’m sorry”) followed by some kind of public statement that the apology was accepted, with a hug and kiss in there. This played out like the following: “I’m sorry for hitting you after you took my book. It was no excuse and I shouldn’t have done that.” “I accept your apology, and I am sorry that I pushed your buttons by taking your book before you finished.” Smooch.

    Imagine my surprise when early on, STBX would get angry and not apologize. This bothered me. Quite a lot, actually. Stupidly, I accepted the advice from others who said that some people apologize in different ways. Then one day, STBX was way over the top and I broke things off.

    Well, he love bombed me but good, and I wasn’t going to give him the time of day. However, I listened to the advice of people who said I should give him another chance. And you know what? He was very solicitous for quite a while. We did get married. Now he’s a cheater.

    But the point is that the danger sign was way back at the beginning. He still cannot handle any kind of disagreement in a healthy, positive fashion that builds the relationship so that we can all move forward. The compromise that comes from one person apologizing for crossing the line and the other person acknowledging that perhaps buttons were being pushed helps both parties understand boundaries. It’s healthy communication that involves both give and take. STBX cannot participate in this kind of communication–at least not in personal relationships.

    So pay attention to the warning signs. If you feel you’re not being respected, then dump the guy. While it won’t feel simple to do so (damn hormones plus hey, empathy!), it’s better in the long run.

    • You must have been married to my STBX. Same thing. He never once apologized to me for anything. If there was a disagreement, he stopped talking to me. He’d leave the house for a few hours. The longer we were married, he’d stop talking for days. Then when kids came along, he’d hole up in our bedroom and not talk to me at all for days, weeks, months. It all just got brushed under the carpet. He never dealt with anything.
      He just was not mature enough. Still isn’t.

      Make sure you don’t ignore this warning sign. Communication is a huge part of any relationship. If you can’t talk, you can’t solve anything. If you don’t apologize, the hurt builds until it explodes. Take it from this 50 year old chump. I wish someone would have told me this 25 years ago. It would have saved me heartache, pain and money.

  • Hey, original poster here.

    Before I fully reply or answer potential questions I want to clarify a few things.

    My stating my expectations, I’ll say things like “I am a super honest person and prefer bluntness over white lies like some people do.” Not “don’t cheat on me or else!!”

    Or I mention that I want a relationship, have liberal values, and personally don’t want to have kids (you know, dating site about me profile info, and i’ll ask if they read it) so that we don’t waste our time on someone with different values. I tell them to walk away if they don’t want the same things because I am not interested in changing them.

    The problem is when they say they are fine with the way I am and don’t want to change me and then criticize the way I am (or try to manipulate me to change) later.

    If he starts acting jerky and I get upset, I try to tell them about the past guys I dated and how they didn’t treat me well to explain my jumpiness so he doesn’t take it personally, but it always gets worse.

    • Yeah. My advice still stands. Don’t say stuff like “I’m a super honest person!” or “I don’t want kids so I hope we’re on the same page.” Just live your life. You’re honest? Be honest. Know what you’ll do if they’re not honest. “I don’t want kids”? It’s waaaay too early to be going there. Assume they read your profile.

      Oh, and don’t talk about the past guys you dated and how they didn’t treat you well. NOT RELEVANT. No one wants to be lumped into the Jerk Collective. The only thing that matters is who you are in that relationship right now. If you’re too jumpy, then you aren’t ready for dating. Period.

      • Got it! I also thought the thing you said about having guys make the first move was interesting. I chose a guy 1st once on a dating site and never again.

        Also, yeah, I usually ask that we don’t talk with exes but sometimes it just comes out if I unnecessarily feel guilty for how I feel (like the guy is potentially not good for me) and need to “explain” myself so he can reassure me. Bad, I know.

    • I’m of the view that you don’t share previous dating disasters with potential new dates. I know not everyone subscribes to this viewpoint, but I think you are exposing yourself as someone who has been taken advantage of. Personally, I’d keep stories of past mistreatment to a minimum.

      If you are blunt – no one is going to miss that. Super blunt people are not hard to find, you can spot them a mile off! So, you don’t need to tell someone that – they’ll get it just fine. Telling someone you’ve just met or are thinking of dating you don’t like lies is probably not going to get you very far either – in all honesty. If they are just after you for a shag, then they’ll agree with everything you say – just to get you into bed. If they genuinely care for you & want something longer term, then you shouldn’t have to be telling them that kind of thing.

      You can’t tell someone how to behave towards you – well, you can, but they are free to ignore it, in the same way you are free to tell them. You have to see how they are behaving regardless of what you say.

      If they’re acting “jerky” don’t waste your breath explaining stuff to them, just back off. Too much acting jerky, maketh a jerk & you don’t want to waste your time on one of them!

    • DS,

      I tend to think like you, but as I was going through my divorce my shrink cautioned me against so often trying to obtain consensus (“I want X. Do you want X? Can we agree our goal will be X?). She said that honest people will signal what they want without you asking, and dishonest people will agree to ANYTHING to get what they want and then do whatever they damn well please.

      • DAMN really?? That is exactly what I do, because I hate being infantilized and told white lies for no reason. I’d rather be told the truth and face the bad consequences (if any) now than later. This post is really giving me the hit with the clue bat I needed! 🙂

        • DS, you keep referring to “white lies”, but aren’t they really just “lies”? I think it would be a good idea not to minimize dishonesty…it’s a character defect/deal breaker. Hang in there!

          • Oh, I feel the same; lies are lies. It’s just that our culture sometimes promotes a stereotype of men and women using a”white lie” to appease their partners/spouses.

            It’s a particular trend that is a pet peeve of mine.

      • Similarly, when I started practicing law an older lawyer told me that contracts are usually worthless. “If you’re dealing with an honest person, you don’t need one,” he said. “And if you’re dealing with a dishonest person, having them sign a piece of paper won’t make any difference.” Sounded strange then, but I’ve come to believe it, in life generally as in the law.

        • Good point. As anyone who has ever divorced a wing nut knows — they don’t really pay attention to court orders. Prepare to enforce everything until there are consequences they respect. Bad people don’t keep their word — in word and on paper.

      • nomar- So true -“…dishonest people will agree to ANYTHING to get what they want and then do whatever they damn well please.” When I think back on our courtship, my cheater was very vague on details about himself despite my inquiries. Everything was copacetic with him. He spent more time mirroring my actions and comments like any good, disordered-sociopath would have done. So if you are of the opinion that these types tend to spot or groom their chumps, these tactics work well in getting their chump down the aisle.

        • My X was absolutely marvelous to me when we first met. He couldn’t do enough for me. He love bombed the hell out of me. I thought God had answered my prayers. I was deliriously happy. It was all one big fake lie. I tell people all the time that ‘he’s not a real person. I know he looks like a real person, but he isn’t.’
          I had a fake husband and a fake life. All those sweetie pie cards he gave me over the years? I burned them all when I caught him cheating. All fake shit. He told me I was his second wife when we got married. I found out afterwards I was his 5th. He’s cheated on every single wife and girlfriend that’s he ever had. He broke up marriages by cheating with married women. If he’s not breaking up his own marriage, he’s breaking up someone else’s. No Karma bus has ever gotten him. Any day now I expect to hear how he got promoted or won the lotto.

    • The thing that popped out at me was “liberal values”. “Liberal values” , to me, connotes things like “open relationship”. That could be generational, though? I mean, it’s vague enough as it is, but when it’s used in a context of dating, that’s what I would read it as. If we were having a theological/political discussion, I would infer it meant things like gay rights, pro-life, etc.

      Just a thought.

      • Liberal in political and social aspects, e.g. promoting equality and quality of life for everyone regardless of sex, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, financial status, etc. Sorry that was vague! I am totally not up for an open relationship but now I know to clarify for next time LOL!

    • Don’t do THAT. Whatever you do, don’t announce that you’re a super honest person and you expect the same. I didn’t make an announcement, but my XH figured out early on that I was very, very honest. So he told me that he’s really bad at lying. It was a lie.

      I was married to him for 25 years. I finally figured out that if his lips are moving he might be lying.

      • I can’t stop laughing at this one, Elizabeth Lee. Childish, I know, but sometimes when he is talking I am literally thinking blah, blah, blah cause it is meaningless.

    • that super honest thing… who prefers “honesty” in others over white lies… rings a bell for me. Back when I met my future cheater, I liked that he seemed so “honest” and almost clueless about dating. I didn’t want the guy who did what I at the time considered pretentious and just “fake” (like taking me to the ballet… granted, we were freshman in college so it WAS a tad pretentious) and instead I went for the guy that would get himself 2 drinks at the bar and leave me to fend for myself?? Obviously, I was extremely dumb, but still. I mistook his selfishness for just being “honest” and almost endearingly clueless. I now say there is something to be said for being a gentleman… not being overly blunt/”honest”. I’d rather hear a white lie or someone ignore some tiny little flaw in me than be “honest” with me about it immediately.

      And if someone is a liar, you telling them not to lie to you isn’t going to make them not lie to you. You just have to see what they DO and judge them by their actions. No one is going to admit to not being honest. In fact, if I have someone like you TELLING me “I’m a super honest person….” that might actually be a teeny tiny red flag to me. Don’t tell me. Show me.

      • “I mistook his selfishness for just being “honest” and almost endearingly clueless.”

        That was me! When an ex would criticize me, make comments about other women to make me insecure, and take me down a few notches, I thought I was getting a reality check about how guys were and that I needed to accept these “facts” to “grow up.” After all, I was “lucky” he chose to be with me despite all the other women he wanted.

      • Also, I don’t consider “white lies” to be sugarcoated truth like “that dress isn’t as nice as the pink one” vs “that is the ugliest dress I have ever seen.”

        “White lies” are like when your guy tells you he thinks you’re most beautiful without makeup (no, you didn’t ask or prompt him), so you put down your fun makeup hobby most days and go out with him sans-makeup. Later he unapologetically tells you he lied, and he only said that so you wouldn’t look as good around him and he would “feel less intimidated.” Then you start wearing makeup again but feel so stupid for listening to him, yet so low you feel like anyone who will treat you better will end up lying the whole time like he did.

        • what a moron! It’s one thing to say that you still look beautiful without make-up and another to say that you’re the MOST beautiful without make-up.

          And I have to also point out… it’s another for you to change things about yourself and how you look on a because of the opinion of some guy. You did something he didn’t technically even ask you to do (which would have obviously been wrong) in the hopes of pleasing him and molding yourself to being what you perceived that he wanted/preferred.

          • Yeah, it really hurt my feelings, and he put me down in front of my friends. He wasn’t a nice dude.

            I just wanted to make him happy because he was the only person I needed to impress, and I didn’t want him to stop being attracted to me or find something better if I didn’t do everything he wanted (yes, definitely bad). I figured that if he does the “work” of showering, shaving, etc. it would have been fair for me to do what he wanted.

            • so, yes, these narc guys make us think that asking them to do ANYTHING is work for them. Because showering and shaving is not work. That is basic human hygiene. If he didn’t do those things, he would be mistaken for a homeless person.

              If you have a fear that they will leave you if you don’t do something for them, then that means you aren’t meant to be together. You need to have expectations of them as well… and those expectations need to be a lot higher than basic hygiene. And if someone makes you feel shitty about yourself then you need to get out. In my case, this definitely happened to me subtly and over time so that I didn’t really realize it was even happening. It was only the cheating that brought it all into focus… where I realized I do deserve better than my ex. And now that he is gone I feel so much better about myself and so much happier.

              So, you need to work on realizing your self-worth and know what you deserve and not accept less. Easier said than done when you’re in the middle of it, I know. Try and get friends HONEST opinions about the guy if that helps. Good luck!

              • Thank you! I went to therapy today and discussed all this stuff in full. This post really helped me understand what I want to believe, and I’m finally understanding those concepts to be true. I am so grateful for that. You all really made me think.

          • Long story short, he was an abusive exclusive bf, not some guy I went on a few dates with. He really did set out to change and mold me, believe me, not to mention how he was always talking about other women (sexually) unprompted. Thus I felt the need to appease him, lest he leave or cheat on me with someone “better.”

  • I’m so thrilled ChumpLady took my letter. My day is made. It really is a lot different out there from decades past. The hookup culture is quite rampant but I haven’t tried it. Too scared to get burned and I want a LTR.

    • Don’t HOOK UP. You’re Too Mature for That..and You KNOW it, you’ll just want to kick yourself in the butt later for going against your Instincts Knowing it Wasn’t Right for You. Stick to your Guns.

  • And let people do for you. Accept help. Don’t wave good people off when they want to help. Don’t be the person who has to always do for others. Learn to give and TAKE.

    This is very true, I have a lot of trouble with letting people HELP, with TAKING. Years of practice at doing it all myself. So I find it very uncomfortable when people do nice things for me, or do me favours, etc. I am working very hard on this. I don’t want to be in a relationship again in which I do everything, I mean fucking everything. We both had full time jobs and I still was the one organising the holidays, sorting out the meals, helping him with job hunting, reading his PhD thesis (he never read mine, even when I asked), helping him find accommodation when he moved abroad, helping him sort out his travel when he came to visit, the list goes on and on…

    AC_

    • “And let people do for you. Accept help. Don’t wave good people off when they want to help. Don’t be the person who has to always do for others.”

      This.

      If you reject people who are helpful or generous, you’re really screening for jerks (people who are comfortable with lopsided relationships that favor THEM).

  • Dear DSRN… I was once you. You’re way better off than me, because I had two ABYSMAL marriages that lasted 11 years apiece… how much of my life was eaten up with their abusive, self-centered ways. How I got out of it: The Rules. They’re a series of books by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. I think the latest one is Not Your Mother’s Rules. It’s an objective, clear-headed method of governing your dating interactions. At first you do the Rules by rote. After a while, you learn to navigate behaviors *observationally*. You no longer go by what they say, but by what they *do*. My picker still isn’t all that great. It may never be. But by imposing this framework on top of my otherwise hit-or-miss picker, I wound up in a better place. There are also a lot of Rules support groups out there on FB… you don’t have to do this alone. Adhering to The Rules helps weed out the players, the cheaters, and the time-wasters. It’s helped me tons… perhaps it might be of help to you. I’ve never enjoyed dating; I’ve never found it to be fun. I hope you find The Right One, and sooner rather than later. 🙂 Wishing all the best for you.

    • I found the book CL has listed above, “How Not to Fall in Love with a Jerk” very helpful, as well, tons of food for thought about sorting out which relationships have a future and which ones don’t.

  • First, figure out what the other person is looking for. Are they dating for fun or are they looking for a serious relationship? This isn’t something to ask on the first date, but by the third or fourth date, ask the guy why he’s dating. There’s nothing wrong with just having fun as long as that’s what you’re both doing. But if one person is thinking about kids and saving money to buy a house while the other person is thinking about parties and saving money to buy concert tickets, then they are not currently compatible.

    Second, don’t be too available:

    1) Don’t drop everything to run to the side of a guy you’ve just started dating. You had your own life before him, you’ll need your own life if he moves on, and even while married you’ll have hobbies you’ll share, hobbies you won’t, and times you just want to be alone. A healthy relationship means both individuals come together to make a better whole without loosing their own identities. Think of a good relationship like a mosaic. Each of you retain your distinct colors while making a picture you could not create alone. Too many chumps on the board gave up everything to conform to the life the abuser wanted.

    2) Don’t have sex too early in the relationship. Guys who just want sex won’t stick around to wait for it for long, not when there’s easy sex a text away. Guys who actually care about you as a person will want to get to know you while you’re clothed. I know there’s going to be some people who will start running around crying that clearly these leads to sexless marriage, guy had to cheat, etc. But I never had sex while dating my now husband, and he never found the need to go somewhere else, because he loved me not what was between my legs.

  • Terrific advice CL!

    I’m in my late 40s and looking back I wish I could tell my “dating” self to take a few chances and go with the flow a bit more. I’d say to take it slow and have some fun without opening your soul on the first few dates. Give things time. It’s a big world and there are so so many people in it that will come into your life (and go) and that’s ok. You don’t have to fall in love with everyone and give yourself permission to have (protected) sex with people who are safe, decent and kind – when you feel ready. Respect yourself and be gentle with yourself. It’s ok to make some mistakes.

    Know yourself first. Don’t let people treat you like an option. If they want to be with you, they will be. Let people have space and be ok to be alone. That and travel, travel, travel!

    Ultimately the person you need to be kindest to is yourself. The rest seems to follow.

    That’s all I’ve got.

  • DSRN,
    Something I’ve discovered over the course of many years is that men aren’t as nice as they used to be. Maybe it’s the hook up culture and they just don’t have to work very hard for women anymore. Women give it up too easy. For free.

    I was single in my late 30’s and now I’m single again in my 50’s. Not much has changed except me. If I get a whiff of a man not treating me the way I expect to be treated he’s gone before he knows it. I insist on being treated with respect because that’s how I treat people.
    I’m pretty okay with being single. I have a great job and a lovely home. Lots of friends and many things to keep me busy. Sometimes I date but I’m very discerning since I’ve fixed my picker. I actually had a man tell me on date once that he cheated on his wife when he was married because ‘all men cheat.’ Guess how long he lasted? I listen to what men tell me and I believe them when they tell me they’re assholes. No more spackle.

    I wouldn’t consider having sex until I was in a committed relationship. I make them court me. And if they don’t have time, neither do I.

  • Oh Dating Sucks !
    You can’t play go fish with your cards face up on the table!
    Don’t show the boys your hand.
    Watch how they choose to live life and how they treat others. They will show you their cards a little at a time. Same for you. Slow down!

    • Lol! I LOVE your moniker!

      I was just going to go there, too, in terms of advice. If you read the Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse article, I think CL mentions how you will know a liar by their actions.

      In the same vein, DatingSucks (which I agree–I always hated dating), if you shut your mouth and watch the guy’s actions instead, you will know much more about his values than just “blah blah blah”ing over coffee at Starbucks (although I like my Starbucks…). Watch how he addresses other people, especially people who serve him. Listen to how he talks about others–is he always trying to bring himself up by putting other’s down? If he gives some change to a beggar, does he make SURE you see it? You’ll get a better idea if it’s a fit for you because you’re more likely to base you decision on what you observe, rather that what he projects to you.

  • Dear Dating Sucks Right Now:

    Activate bitch. Those were the famous words of a therapist I saw during my divorce. Activate bitch. Take your power back. This does not mean being a “bitch”, mean-spirited, cold-hearted. It means looking out for Number One. That’s you.

    I don’t believe in “bitches.” But if taking care of myself is being a “bitch”, then I’m convicted.

    You brought up the word “nice” in your letter. Whether you are aware of it or not, women are conditioned to be “nice”, take up less space, be small. Consider feminine archetypes in literature or make-up ads that tell you to buy their “whisper” lipstick (Maybelline). Over and over in my upbringing, I was always told, “Be ladylike. Cross your legs. Tone your voice down.”

    That is what I hear in your letter very loudly (ironically). You gently tell your partners this, you want them to do something for you, you want to be nice. Screw that. It is just another variation of the “pick me dance”. Stop performing and take an honest look at them.

    Dating sucks whenever it is. Trust me. So don’t do it. Upon my divorce (see where you don’t want to end up?), I lamented to a friend of mine in her 50s how much I hated dating and did not want to “play the field.” She gave me one of the most liberating pieces of advice I ever received (one of eleventy during that period): Don’t date. Make friends. What’s wrong with friend?

    Romance is great. I think young people should get carried away in love or lust or whatever it is we have going on. But it starts with friendship.

    Get yourself a copy of “All About Love” by bell hooks. Blow your mind with Helene Cixous. Rediscover your favorite fairy tales and myths with Clarissa Pinkola Estes. . Watch “When Harry Met Sally” to get a hang of the friend thing.

    I write about hook-up culture in my scholarship, so I could go on all day about that. I won’t tell you what to do; we get enough of that already. Do what feels right for you, it’s your body, but ask what you truly want or need, and act accordingly. Do not disassociate yourself from your feelings. This is not “Do What You Want With My Body” and there are no “Blurred Lines.”

    • Oh gosh, you’re completely right. I realized this intellectually but for a while I believed in that dichotomy. I still struggle with it in practice. I also hate how the bull concept of “female purity” has bothered me too (aka guys do whatever they want with no problems but girls lose value and eventually get “used up” if they do anything sexual).

      • Oh yeah – the bullshit, I cannot even start on that, do NOT get me started on the “value” of virginity or the blog site will blow up!

        • Oh, Dat, I can’t wait ’til CL posts a letter with some poor chump who got browbeaten with “not being a virgin until we met” to see you blow!

          (I’ve met guys from super-fundy churches who felt their gfs had to ask forgiveness from God for not being virgins if they “lost it” by being sexually abused. Clearly, these were not my kind of churches…)

  • For the record, I am not advocating the nice/bitch dichotomy because we are all engaged in what I feel is the superficial discussion over buzz words like bossy, lean-in, bitch, etc. Rather, I am suggesting something outside of an academic scope which helped me learn how to say “no.”

  • You’re in your Early 20’s. You’re Just discovering Who YOU Are. Getting with the Wrong people can Derail that ** although mature you up fast..Blessing and Curse**..Confuse you.

    The Question is Complex..The Answer Alot Simpler…
    ask yourself ” Can I THRIVE in this ? ”
    If The Answer is No…tell them ” I don’t see Us Thriving TOGETHER in this relationship. We Both Deserve To. Good Luck finding what will help you Accomplish That “….Wish them Well in your heart and move on…. UNbitter. Hon, Believe me when I Tell you, it’s the Wasted Time that gets to you as you grow Older. Ask Anyone Whose Lost soo Much Time over the WRONG Person, when we Knew somewhere it Wasn’t gonna Work and yet Hesitated to End It…Don’t WAIT, when you Know in your Heart it’s Not to Be.
    Like a Bandaid Rip it Off, Quickly..and as Calmly as Possible.. It’s Not Selfish, Believe me, it’s Loving..as You’re Also giving Them the opportunity to Find Who’s Right for Them Too.

    LOVE YOURSELF FIRST..Only THEN will you Find the One to Love You, Just As Much for EXACTLY Who you Are And for Those Things you Aren’t, as Well.

    It’s Gonna Be Alright. 🙂 I Promise. (hugs)

  • Food for Thought :

    There was a Job ad in the newspaper : ” We don’t Train employees how to Be Nice..We Hire Nice People. ”

    Don’t Train Him. Either he’s Nice or He’s Not.
    If He’s Not Nice..FIRE HIM.

      • John Van Epp also warns about this in his book, “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk” (from CL’s list):

        “Two areas determine the health and functioning of a partner’s self-monitoring system: his or her personal code and the enforcer of that code… If you are not careful, you can find yourself slipping into the role of the conscience with your partner… Becoming your partner’s conscience may go unnoticed by you for a while, but it becomes exasperating in time… Resist the temptation to apply for this job. Let your partner live by his or her conscience and decide if you like what you see.” (p. 203-4)

  • Apparently dating in your twenties just sucks. In hindsight one of the first clues that my cheater was on his way out was him coming home and telling me all the dating horror stories his office full of single 20 something sluts told him. He always said he couldn’t believe what jerks young guys are these days. In a true act of selflessness he did what any good husband and father would do…he walked out on him his family for one of those sluts…but not before he messed around with 3 others (that I know of). He wanted to make sure as many ladies as possible got to date a fine gentleman such as himself.

    So yeah, fix your picker lest you end up with someone as great as him!

    • CL, that could be a cool post sometime–dates with narcs. I’ve had some real doozies–first date, the guy wanted me to come “try out his futon”. When I refused, he asked what was wrong–was it because I was still a virgin? I informed him I did not need to be a virgin to have standards, he still didn’t get it.

      A month later, I saw him in a bar with some other poor girl. He made sure to make eyecontact with me while kissing her (helloooo, trying to tap into the power of a triangle–unsuccessfully). I raised my glass to toast him to show I really couldn’t give a flying fuck after one memorably disastrous date. In retrospect, given his above question, I now see the irony that I was drinking vodka with cherry juice….lol…(very yummy, btw).

      No wonder I gave up on dating…

    • Perish the thought, Helen!

      How chivalrous of your ex, saving those 20 somethings from their bad dates. Until one lucky soul wins an old serial cheater. Geez!

  • “Find people you have a mutual connection with, be friends first, and let it evolve organically. And let people do for you. Accept help. Don’t wave good people off when they want to help. Don’t be the person who has to always do for others. Learn to give and TAKE.” Good advice, again, from CL.

    I would add that it is important to enjoy your own company. Do you like yourself? Solidify this, and you will be better equipped not to settle.

    Also, DSRN wrote, “But let’s face it: I always wanted a steady stream of sweet, inexpensive gestures and compliments like I would give to them. I still struggle with the idea that a guy would want to be genuinely romantic with me.” I would recommend reading THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES by Gary Chapman. From the above quote, I am sensing you feel loved the most through gifts, words, or quality time (3 of the 5). Not everyone is wired that way and may not be tuned to your frequency. It’s a good relationship conversation piece and will help you understand yourself better.

  • Wow, Tracy, I sure wish you were there to give this advice to my early-20s self. Maybe I would been spared the decades of grief. Dating Sucks, these are the best and truest words you are going to get anywhere. Take them to heart, because you don’t want to be one of us Chumps with a sad story a few years (or decades) down the road.

  • Hey Dating,
    I want to chime in as a chump kid. My dad was the total asshat/narcissist and I growing up with such a jerk dad, I decided I was going to take notes and not make that mistake. I think a lot of women (like my mom) were chumped because they were raised to be honest and kind, and the narcissists screen for that. I also think that many people do not realize such narcissists exist, until they marry one.

    What I would recommend would be to look for someone that is kind. That is a personality trait that wears well over time. That is different than “nice” or just polite. Do they get along with their family members? Do they take responsibility for what they do? Is everything everyone else’s fault? Here is a biggie for someone your age. Do they live within their means? Do they like dangerous/risky behaviors? Are they nice to waitstaff, broom pushers and cashiers? Do they go to the bathroom when the check arrives? Is their car always on empty? Do they clean up after themselves? Speak well of other people? Blameshifting starts early.

    What I want to tell my daughters is a little trick I learned from Gavin De Becker in his book “The gift of fear”. If I guy asks you if you want a drink, and you say “no”, does he badger you to change your mind? c’mon, it’s only one? That is the start of a screening process to see if they can talk you out of your boundries. No is a complete sentence.

    Another interesting nugget in that same book came under the section about screening future employees, and I think I would apply to screening potential partners. Work it in to ask “who helped you on your way up” and see if they give credit where credit is due. If they don’t, turn on your heels and walk away.

    You are kind of thinking about selling yourself and your good attributes and hope that someone appreciates them and respects you. You need to change that around and watch how potential dates treat EVERYONE….not just the people who have something they want.

    CL is right, figure out what makes you happy. Spend enough time doing it that you are involved with other people and then watch the interactions. People will show you who they are, you just have to look for it. Good luck

  • DSRN-

    (Whoops…my finger got a little happy there and I only posted your name in the above post).

    I’ve read a couple of times (this site included) that your prefrontal cortex isn’t even fully developed until your mid twenties. That’s where your personality is formed, your complex decision making happens, etc, so you need not rush into something long term at this juncture in your life.

    CL’s advice is dead on. Listen to her and fix your picker lest you wind up here 27 years down the road on 50’s doorstep, trying to figure out how to start over. I got married when I was barely 20 years old, not even legally old enough to drink. There were signs that I spackled over back in the day. My ex was a player and I wasn’t really looking for anything serious when we first started dating; so when he ‘chose’ me to be in a long term relationship it was over the top flattering to me. He loved bombed me, was really possessive, took the easy way out of everything and had major entitlement issues. My mom didn’t love his attitude, especially when it came to entitlement but what did she know? I was in love.

    I hate to be a cautionary tale but you at least have the wisdom to see that there might be something wrong with your picker. Work on that and the rest will fall into place, especially if you follow CLs advice!

    Good luck to you

  • One of the ways I knew my first boyfriend and I were perfect together was there was no pressure and our desire was mutual. Nothing happened without mutual consent. It was clumsy and wonderful. However we were young and he regretted throwing it all away. Luckily I ran into something similar when older and wiser and discovered a wonderful truth – good relationships are easy. It’s the bad ones that take the most work. I’d like to say – hang onto your standards and be as picky as you want. You don’t have to understand or explain to yourself or anyone why someone suits you or not. I believe it is not in human nature to tolerate someone who hurts us: that is why someone who hurts us will wait until we have invested in the relationship and then we have to balance what’s going to hurt more – losing our investment or staying in a questionable relationship. Thus “hopium”. Having been chumped more than once, I’m on the side of being picky and being called “unfair” and “unreasonable” and going on instinct. (Justifications are not required! A late lesson learned). I’ve had good relationships and bad and the bad ones all had the same thing in common – abusers – and they are are boring carbon copies of one another. A real person will be engaging and you will feel right with that person. Date, have fun!

  • Datingsucksrightnow.
    Most people have primitive unconscious trigger responses to a variety of things and situations in life. These create automatic reactions and BLIND-SPOTS in our perception. These reactions and blind spots are often set in during our childhood or in circumstances where we experience traumas or fear of some kind. This is a survival mechanism that originates in our primitive brain, that’s job it is is to insure we survive. Unfortunately these reactions and blind-spots are also the very things that creates blindness to things that are obvious to those without our particular blind-spots. This is also one of the big things that makes us vulnerable to being targeted by predatory or disordered person and their antics. These reactive patterns and blind-spots are one reason why it can be so confusing when we know better logically yet we find ourselves in the same situations or attracting the same types of people into our lives over and over again. How can we proactively make conscious awake choices when, due to some possibly long ago trauma that we do not even remember, we experience these automatic survival mechanisms and respond in, unconscious to us, ways that render us blind. These primitive pre-set responses automatically activate when ever any situation that is similar to a past traumatic situation occurs. This therefore often renders us unable to see someone or something for what they are at a time when seeing things for what they actually are is what we need more then anything in order to assure our long term safety and happiness.

    I have recently been through a very successful therapy process that has literally changed my life, my responses to life, my perception and my “picker” also. All for the better.
    I had been in a relationship with a character disturbed Sex Addict for 23 years. The realization that I had been so deceived, violated and used by this person that I trusted, for so long was an extremely disconcerting and traumatizing experience. I wanted very badly to understand what had happened and more then anything I wanted to know why an intelligent, wise, and clear headed person like myself had not seen what was right before my eyes all these years.. I wanted to know why this had happened so I could have some assurance that I would be able to prevent this from occurring in my life again. What was it about myself that had be hospitable to being deceived like this?

    I decided to do some very serious therapy, self inquiry and self work. Luckily for me my therapist recognized that I had been traumatized by my marriage situation and one of the first things she did with me was address the trauma. She did something called EMDR, that is specifically designed to deal with the underlying source of the trauma and our resulting programed trauma responses. This experience changed me and changed how I experience and respond to life in huge ways and more importantly the outcome of this treatment was unbelievably successful in a very direct and obvious ways.

    I could of of gone to talk therapy blah blah blah for a 100 years and not have as much genuine tangible recognizable success as I had in the first three treatments of EMDR. What EMDR does, simply put, is reprocesses neurologically the old response patterns and beliefs that the primitive R complex area of our brain creates to protect us from harm. This usually happens in childhood and it happens with everyone regardless of how sever or mild your traumas might be. This normal human survival mechanism creates automatic primitive responses in a person, that are so aromatic and unconscious that we are not even aware that we have them.

    This therapeutic process quickly helped me reprocess these automatic responses and unconscious behaviors and the results have been absolutely amazing. It has profoundly changed how I relate to everyone in my life and how I relate to and respond to situations and events in my life as well. In a very true way I can say I was blind and now I automatically see much clearer. I see through predatory type people much quicker now and I do not go into autopilot in situations where I once would have.

    This is a small example of what I am talking about. At a recent family gathering where a lot of the same old family antics and drama were playing out I was able to easily see the drama and antics for what they were. I was curiously observing it all and it was not difficult for me at all to not react or engage in any of it. The old patterns that had so easily drawn me in and the automatic reactions and responses, that I would of had before doing EMDR, no longer had any effect on me at all. One of my sisters noticed this and she looked at me and said-” you have forgotten all the family rules” then she said with genuine curiosity ” how have you done that?”

    I have found myself wondering how differently my life and my marriage could of been if I had had the opportunity to address these old deeply programed responses patterns and beliefs long ago, i.e. like before I married a perverted jerk off that cleverly disguised himself in the facade of an all around great guy. What would I of been more easily able to see? Now I see right through my STBXH and many other people as well, very easily. What if I had actually been able to see this all as clearly as I do now then? I may of seen what was right in front of my face all along and chosen a mate that could and did matched my clarity, integrity and authenticity.

    I have made sure that my three daughters ( 17, 20, 24) have access to this treatment and that they understand the importance of addressing these old patterns and programed responses. I believe they have been and will continue to be empowered by this knowledge. Clearing old programed reactions at in early adulthood can be one empowering tool to assist a person in creating a conscious empowered life.
    Most humans do have traumas of some sort and by proactively addressing this trauma and more importantly the unconscious reactive patterns and blind-spots created by this, at a young age, a lot of the suffering and the blind-spot hampered choices could easily be avoided.
    Cheers to you for being a wise young woman, with integrity and standards, that is taking conscious action to create a healthy life for herself.

    • Wow, I never heard of that. I need to look into it. I’m glad to hear it worked well for you and you got healthier. Thanks for the kind words and recommendation.

      • I second EMDR recommendation, nothing else I tried helped me work through the PTSD after my ex nearly shot me. I went to EMDR for a year and worked through most of the trauma. I also worked through old wounds and that helped me similarly to Martha L.

  • I gotta say you are doing a billion times better than me at your age… at least you have managed to figure these guys out and gotten rid of them. I was attached to my damn future cheater and ignoring about a billion red flags at your age.

    But it is really good that you are already thinking about these things… I remember reading my first self-help books after all my shit went down and thinking “why did it take something THIS bad happening to get me to think about myself and my wants and needs??” So you’re way ahead of the game. And eventually you’ll meet a good person… for now, maybe try to not worry about it so much. Not saying to do the hook-up thing, but maybe you should relax more about dating and think about it more as just getting to know some people. Not bring in as many expectations to it.

    • Thanks! I really appreciate CL and the commenters being so kind and insightful. I’m relieved I was doing -something- wrong in my dating tactics. Otherwise I felt powerless and like getting hurt again was inevitable. How sad that I succumbed to social pressure to waste time with guys I didn’t like to avoid loneliness.

  • Hi DatingSucks, glad you wrote in, caused me to visit another favorite site that you may find helpful. Captain Awkward rocks and has advice columns on dating and relationships that are amazing. If only I’d been as self aware at her age. Anyhow, here are a few links you might find helpful (hope the spam filter doesn’t kill this);

    http://captainawkward.com/2012/05/31/261-i-keep-falling-for-fixer-uppers/
    http://captainawkward.com/2011/01/17/reader-question-4-my-friend-is-dating-someone-terrible-or-secrets-of-the-darth-vader-boyfriend/
    http://captainawkward.com/2012/01/16/question-174-dating-secrets-of-the-terrifyingly-amazing/

    The comments of the Awkward Army are worth reading, they are moderated so trolls don’t get much voice. And there is now a forum for the Awkward Army if you want to join that and start a thread.

    Don’t forget, ChumpLady has a forum too, it’s on the right side of every blog post.

  • Ooh, I have read a bit of Captain Awkward and it hits home. She is also very witty. I enjoyed these quotes from a related article here: http://captainawkward.com/2013/02/22/454-darth-vader-is-a-tricksy-hobbit/

    “Obviously I personally think it’s important to fight against the way that our culture pressures people, especially women, to stay in romantic relationships even when they aren’t working.”

    This is huge, because I don’t listen to people who do that anymore I didn’t realize it was a basic human right, not a privilege (“because you’ll complain about being single”) to leave if I am not happy and don’t like him.

    “Smart, kind people tend to be self-aware of their own mistakes and the ways they are less than perfect, and they own up to them and apologize for them. Darths use this admirable quality against us in some calculus where any bad act by him is cancelled out by you not being perfect + all the nice things he’s ever done + his really fucked-up childhood/history of depression/the unfair way everyone else in life has ever treated him = THINGS ARE TOTALLY OKAY NOW RIGHT?”

    Again, even if the guy wasn’t my cup of tea, we traumatically bonded and I felt I “owed” him for putting up with me. I feared being alone and unwanted, believing that my sad quality of life with him was the best I could get. And sometimes a nice thing he did was thrown in my face. Like this: “You’re upset I lied to you? I was honest by telling you the truth just now, so you should just get over it already.” He was mad at me for being upset that something he just confessed HE did wrong. Wtf?

    Never again! I’m worth too much to do that to myself period. A little feeling tells me it sounds like my ego is inflated for saying that, but I now realize it is wrong and I am worth protecting myself.

  • DSRN,

    As I reviewed your letter to chump lady, I did my best to put myself in your shoes. You never deserved to be treated with disrespect by any man. I aplogize in advanced, but in my unbiased opinion, I believe you are just looking in the wrong locations. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to be attracted to someone and set your standards so low. There are really good men out there with their imperfections, their flaws, their bad habits that would probably make any woman slightly frown. Men by default are attracted to woman to portray traits like themselves. Good and bad. You also don’t owe any man anything. Until you put a ring on that finger or you are in a serious relationship, you don’t owe a man a thing. Even if you were married, you should want to contribute to that relationship, not owe. You said “I always wanted a steady stream of sweet, inexpensive gestures and compliments like I would give to them. I still struggle with the idea that a guy would want to be genuinely romantic with me.”I believe your expectations and reality could be slightly altered…you will find a man that doesn’t do this on a daily basis. A man also doesn’t owe you anything and shouldn’t be expected to be your prince-charming, lovey dovey, also showering you compliments and gifts just to keep your smile. That is so tiring. I think a good book for you to read is “Men are from Mars, Woman are from Venus”. I am not trying to sell this book, but ti takes both sexes issues, good things and bad things about each other. It is a great learning tool. My girlfriend and I read it together just to better understand each other. Our relationship has taken value and great strides to keep our relationship strong. Also, please don’t give up on a good guy..you can “bar hop” from one man to another and never truely be happy. No man is perfect, nor a woman. In no way am I trying to be biased against you or woman or even men. I wish you the best. Take time to be single, enjoy it, love yourself and then that Mr. Right is waiting for you…Mr. Right (but not perfect).

    -James-

  • I’m dealing with the same thing right now, and I’m 43. I’m not looking to date right now. I’m in the final stages of my divorce, then I’m moving, plus I’m looking for a job. So I’m not out there trying to meet guys. I also subscribed to the idea of making friends first. I’m not sure it’s possible at this point.

    I went out with a group for a meetup (shared interests–not looking to date) and at midnight that same night, I got an email (through meetup) from a guy I had hardly spoken to, looking for a booty call.

    I had a guy I knew for years try to get me to send him a picture of me in my underwear.

    I had a neighbor I’ve been friends with for years start with sexual innuendos.

    I have two married men that I’ve known a while start sniffing around.

    Not one guy has actually asked me out. For the record, I dress conservatively and I’m not flirting. I am friendly and warm, and I’m considered a good listener. What makes it worse is that I don’t aggressively shoot guys down. I change the subject and hope they get the hint. They don’t. I’m going to have to be less nice. It’s sad.

    I’m starting to think that adult men and women can’t really be friends. The men are just waiting for an opportunity.

    It really scares me how so few men are treating me with respect. What’s scarier is that they start out acting so nice. Ugh. They have no respect. I think that they see people like me as low hanging fruit. I don’t think I’d ever tell anyone new my story until I knew them really well. Even then, maybe a heavily edited version.

  • Goldie,

    I came back to this thread to see what wisdom I could glean from this, and sadly, your experience sounds just like mine. I will be turning 53 in a few days and have been separated 2 years, divorced 9 months. I have two teenage daughters who are struggling with the emotional fallout, I’m working full time and am in grad school (online, so I won’t be meeting Mr. Right that way). For a long time I felt guilty, a bit like a failure, that I wasn’t finding a new boyfriend/husband/dad for the kids. I’m not even out there trying to meet men, but I’ve had the same experiences as you–a long time friend invited me out to dinner with a group of friends, ordered wine and attacked me with kisses (how humiliating), the neighborhood sex addict tried to woo me, another neighborhood perv wanted to know how my HUSBAND was doing (he f*cking well knew I was separated). Then yesterday took the cake. I was waiting at the bus stop to go home after a stressful day of work and this guy came up to me. He wanted to know how my day at work was. I said only “fine.” Then he wanted to know if I was going home to my kids and husband. I said “yes” (I am so uncomfortable with lying, I decided that a 50% lie was fine). Then he began asking me why he couldn’t meet a woman as beautiful as me. I went on my cell phone and began randomly texting. He walked around the stop hysterically laughing. It was so unsettling–I did not know whether to run away or stand my ground. I ended up staying there, and thankfully my bus showed up about 5 minutes later.

    What the hell is wrong, can they smell that I am alone and have no life? I also worry that most men who are single and in their 50s or older are either cheaters, sex addicts or ex cons. Maybe a few nice widowers out there, who knows, but I am not positioned in my everyday life to meet one.

    I actually worry that people in general are out for themselves, that they can smile in my face and slip their hands in my wallet to get what they feel they “deserve.”

    Thinking about wearing the wedding ring again. Or learning how to exude “stay away from me” vibes.

    Goldie…one last thing. I learned this from my kids–concern for how you dress is feeding into the culture of rape. By discussing how you dress and speculating that this influences how men treat you, it implies that men cannot control their behavior. Skimpy clothing, colorful clothing, stylish clothing is not what “makes” men treat you the way they are treating you. I respectfully submit they are jerks who need to be responsible for their behavior. I’m glad you are not deciding to date any of them! They deserve to be alone.

    • I didn’t even think about that with the clothing. You’re right, of course. I guess I just wanted to point out that at far as I’m concerned, I’m not sending out mixed messages.

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through the same thing, but at least I know it’s not just me.

      It makes me sad to say that I agree with you. There may be good guys out there, but I fear they’re outnumbered by louts.

  • Like Jade, I came back to this thread as a refresher when I came upon Jade & Goldie’s comments. I was in that same exact situation & mind frame six months ago. I was attracting guys who were not right for me. A few of them were complete jerks. Confessed sex addict? Check! Married man? Check! Flaming narcissist? Check!

    When I realized who/what they were, I cut them out of my life. IMMEDIATELY. The married man? When he started sniffing, I went no contact right away. The sex addict? Lucky for me, he stopped talking to me first. Same with the narcissist–I drew boundaries and he slunk away.

    I pulled back on dating for awhile and focused on my life. I’m in school, I had an internship to go through, I have kids to raise. The funny thing is, the interest from men didn’t stop once I pulled myself off the market. I was still getting asked out but in some strange places. One guy found me on my meditation app (he’s a fellow meditator.) That didn’t work out, but one thing I noticed was that he’s several grades higher quality than the jerks who were sniffing around before. Another guy I met on a hike. Quality person–the kind you’d bring home to momma. I was in the middle of intense legal stuff plus trying to do life, so I told him I couldn’t date at the moment. We are still friends.

    This past six months have been a time of reflection for me. I’ve clarified what my values are and I live them, in word and deed. I value reciprocity and it shows in my behavior. Users don’t really dig that mindset, so they don’t even bother trying anymore. I value empathy. When someone shows me they don’t, we part ways. There are plenty of people who do value the things I value, and I’m having good fun meeting them. Yes, even as an isolated SAHM who is also a part-time night student, I’m meeting people!

    Following my curiousity to new interests, clarifying and living my values, trusting myself to enforce my boundaries, and 100% acceptance of where I am in the journey (even if its painful, even if I wish it were different) has made being single not a chore, but a joy. I wish the same for you. I hope that you find a way of being that supports living a happy life.

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